Pica is an eating disorder that causes you to eat things that aren’t food, like paper, clay, paint chips, dirt, or hair.
Most things that people with pica eat aren't really harmful. However, paint chips can contain lead, which causes lead poisoning Lead Poisoning Lead is a metal that's found in things like some water pipes, old paint (from before 1978 in the United States), some pottery glazes, bullets, and some kinds of batteries. "Lead" pencils don't... read more . Dirt may contain eggs of worms or other parasites, which can infect you.
Pica is more common in pregnant women, children, and people with intellectual disabilities, autism Autism Autism is a brain disorder that affects how people interact with other people and communicate. People with autism have trouble talking with and relating to other people. They also have unusual... read more , or schizophrenia Schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness in which a person loses contact with reality (psychosis). A person with schizophrenia may have hallucinations (see or hear things that aren’t real)... read more .
Pica isn't diagnosed in children younger than 2 years old. Very young children who are healthy often eat items that aren't food.
Some people eat nonfood items as part of their cultural or religious tradition. Pica isn't diagnosed in such people.